Octogenarian verifies own theory: use your brain and get smarter

Irish college confers Ph.D. on retired professor, 81

by Takayo Kubo

Kyodo

Yoshio Oro, a retired college professor, believes he has verified his own theory — the more you use your brain, the smarter you get.

Oro was conferred a Ph.D. in social gerontology, the study of society and aging, at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland in April at the age of 81.

“I love starting new things from scratch,” he said in an interview during a brief return home to Japan in late May. “People can rejuvenate themselves if they continue to act with something worth living for.”

Despite his advancing age, Oro said he has never felt a decline in his memory.

Born in Osaka Prefecture in November 1932, Oro taught English and British industrial history for about 40 years at universities including Toyohashi University of Technology in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.

He first came across the field of social gerontology after retiring, and knew that it would become his “new lifework.”

In 2006 at the age of 73, he moved alone to the western Irish city of Galway to enter the Irish Center for Social Gerontology, which had been founded at the National University of Ireland, Galway, the same year.

Oro went to Trinity College Dublin two years later to undertake a Ph.D. program focusing on elderly people and their sports activities.

He focused on how elderly people’s participation in sports can generate various positive outcomes such as physical health and mental well-being.

Oro said that his wife, 71, initially asked him not to travel to Ireland because she would be lonely, but that she is now one of his main supporters.

The couple talk via a free Internet-based telephone service almost every day.

Oro has never failed to return home to Aichi Prefecture to celebrate her birthday. “She will get mad if I don’t,” he said.

Oro said he is concerned that aging remains an unfamiliar subject of research in Japan and that he will continue to stay in Ireland to do more research on the subject.